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National Drug Law Enforcement Agency

Nigeria is the hub of African narcotics trafficking, and Nigerian poly-crime organizations continue to expand their role in narcotics trafficking worldwide. Nigerian trafficking organizations control the drug markets of Sub-Saharan Africa, and operate drug distribution networks from strategic locations throughout the world. Nigerians transport a large portion of the heroin abused in the United States; they smuggle South American cocaine to Europe and Africa, especially South Africa, and they export marijuana--the only narcotic cultivated in Nigeria--to Europe and other countries in West Africa.

Nigerians participate heavily in international drug trafficking. One study found that 65 percent of the heroin seizures of 50 grams or more in British airports came from Nigeria, which was the transit point for 20 percent of all heroin from Southwest Asia. Another study disclosed that 20 percent of the hard drug cases in Britain involved ships of the Nigerian National Shipping Line. By the late 1980s, Nigerians were arrested almost daily in foreign countries, and hundreds languished in foreign jails for drug trafficking.

Nigeria is the center for most narcotics traffic in Africa and remains one of the highest volume transshipment points for narcotics trade between the Eastern and Western Hemisphere, accounting for a significant portion of the heroin coming to the United States. By shifting some operations to neighboring countries and to strategic locations worldwide, Nigerian criminal organizations have succeeded in altering and expanding their smuggling networks.

Nigerian money-launderers operate sophisticated global networks to repatriate the illicit proceeds of narcotics trafficking as well as from financial crimes and other criminal activities. The Government of Nigeria , in 1995, enacted well-crafted legislation to control money laundering, but enforcement of the laws has been uneven and no convictions and relatively few seizures have been made.

Drug-related crime emerged as a major problem in the 1980s. At least 328 cocaine seizures were made between 1986 and 1989, and the number of hard drug convictions surged from 8 in 1986 to 149 in 1989, with women accounting for 27 percent of the 275 total convictions during this period. Drug-induced psychoses accounted for 15 percent of admissions to four psychiatric hospitals in l988. In a related development, the federal Ministry of Health reported in 1989 that about one-half of the drugs available in Nigeria were imitations, leading to a series of counterfeit and fake drugs decrees imposing increasingly higher penalties for violations.

The Government of Nigeria (GON) counter-narcotics programs have failed to materialize or have been ineffective. Efforts by the Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) have been hindered by widespread corruption in law enforcement and other agencies and by the lack of clear policy guidance and substantive government support. Counter-narcotics legislation has been enacted, but has produced no prosecutions or convictions of major drug traffickers.

Decree Number 48 of January l990 established a National Drug Law Enforcement Agency to eliminate the growing, processing, manufacturing, selling, exporting, and trafficking of hard drugs, and the decree prescribed stiffer penalties for convicted offenders. Although Babangida had abolished the death penalty for convicted drug dealers, by the end of the decade there were public calls to restore it. Stricter security measures were introduced at Lagos International Airport in 1989 to curb a crime wave there, and a plan was instituted in August 1989 to control black market activities.

The NDLEA maintains a presence at international airports, making regular seizures of heroin from individual couriers, and conducts raids at seaports and border checkpoints. Efforts to eradicate cannabis cultivation focused on the destruction of isolated plantings. The NDLEA has attempted to shift the focus of operations from the arrest of couriers to the prosecution of controlling members of narcotics and money laundering organizations. However, these nascent efforts are stymied by endemic corruption in other government agencies as well as lack of support, funding and skill.

Despite counternarcotics efforts by the NDLEA, increasingly large quantities of drugs pour through Nigeria's land and sea borders. Nigeria's extensive land borders are poorly patrolled and relevant law enforcement agencies are rife with corruption; Nigeria's ports are poorly managed and plagued by corruption. Although NDLEA efforts have created at least some risk that couriers may be caught at the airport, traffickers continue to use air cargo and express mail services. Nigerian trafficking networks rely increasingly on bulk shipments by land and sea to smuggle drugs into and out of the country.

The US DEA office in Lagos remained in contact with the NDLEA operations throughout the year, primarily through the US-Nigeria Joint Narcotics Task Force, reactivated in November, 1995. However, the GON has not made a concerted effort to move forward with its narcotics control strategy and has not allocated significantly greater resources to law enforcement agencies. Effective cooperation continues to be hampered by corruption and the impasse on extraditions. Until the GON takes concrete steps to resolve these difficulties, cooperation beyond limited working level contacts is unlikely.

Security forces employ roadblocks and checkpoints where extortion, violence, and lethal force are common. On 26 June 1997, 37-year-old bus driver Bassey Paul was killed after security forces, including members of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), police, military, customs, and immigration, stopped his bus at a checkpoint. During an argument between competing security forces, the unarmed Paul was shot through the chest and died instantly. Similar accounts of excessive use of force and extrajudicial killings at checkpoints were recorded throughout the year. There has been no official reaction to the violence at checkpoints.

Repeated fuel shortages often stimulated incidents, and armed security forces killed several people when special treatment was refused. In March 1997 the body of gas station manager Kehinde Ehindero was delivered to the Ondo state specialist hospital after armed men claiming to be NDLEA officials had arrested him earlier in the day. The station owner reported that the security men had become enraged after their request for fuel was denied because the station had only kerosene in stock. Hospital staff confirmed that the body was brought to the hospital by an NDLEA officer, who they then turned over to the police. According to police on duty, the officer was released upon orders from "above."




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